NORMAN - A formation of more than 130 Oklahoma Army National Guard Soldiers stood in front of a crowd of loved ones Wednesday, eager to hug each other again for the first time this year during a homecoming ceremony held at the Norman Armed Forces Reserve Center.
Two units returning from Europe shared the ceremony, which included nearly 100 members of 1st Battalion, 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) and more than 30 members of the Military Intelligence Company (MICO), Brigade Special Troops Battalion (BSTB), 45th IBCT.
This was the second and final wave of Soldiers with the 179th to return after a six-month deployment to Ukraine. The first half returned earlier this month, while a majority of the 179th leadership stayed to ensure a smooth transition with members of 1st Battalion, 279th Infantry Regiment, 45th IBCT, who will serve out the rest of the year.
The 179th was part the first of two six-month rotations in support of the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine (JMTG-U), where they provided training support for Ukrainian Forces within the U.S. Security Cooperation agreements. Members of the 279th replaced the 179th earlier this summer to continue the mission and finish out the second half of the rotations.
Alongside the 179th stood members of the 45th BSTB's MICO, who deployed in August 2016 in support of a NATO peacekeeping mission in order to establish a secure environment in Kosovo.
The MICO supported operations by reviewing each source of instability within the country and region to determine, analyze and answer intelligence requirements by providing a variety of capabilities and support in all levels of the military intelligence spectrum.
One of the ceremony's speakers, Brig. Gen. Hopper Smith, land component commander, Oklahoma Army National Guard, praised both units for their accomplishments while overseas, adding in the significance of the 45th's legacy.
"It is in keeping with being from Oklahoma and bearing this patch; the patch of the Thunderbird," Smith said. "Because America knows you can depend on the 45th."